Tai chi helps older people enjoy life

Before I started tai chi, I had been a couch potato for many years. I had worked in a very stressful environment and just came home every evening to a ready meal and mindless TV, because I was just so shattered

Needless to say, after years of this, I had become extremely unfit, as well as rather plumper. It was only after I had a wake up call, in the way of a cancer diagnosis, that I realised I had to change, if I was to enjoy life to its fullest. (I have been free from cancer for over 5 years now)

So, I decided to change my lifestyle – to eat healthier food, to look for gentle exercise, to join groups and make more friends – in short, to live rather than to exist

When I started out I was an absolute klutz, but I found I enjoyed it and after a while my klutziness improved. Tai chi has this effect on many people and indeed has been shown to reduce falls in the elderly by 43%

Now that I’ve been doing it for so many years, my health has improved too – I used to always be coming down with something, but feel healthier and happier, which is great! I start every day with slow gentle breathing exercises, which are very relaxing, and regular practise of these has built up my health and strength, so that I can enjoy the day ahead, instead of battling through – such a wonderful change!

Before I started, I had a terrible memory, so the idea of learning anything new was daunting, but with tai chi over time my memory has improved, so learning new things is no longer the challenge it used to be. As we grow older it’s very important to keep learning new things, to keep our brains sharp and alert and functioning properly. Quite apart from those healthy reasons though, learning new things makes life a wonderful adventure. I have taken up Persian painting and speak German as well as do tai chi, all of which I enjoy for their own sakes, and all of which have given me opportunities to meet new people and have little adventures. Life is for living!

I now enjoy going out into Nature too, whereas before I could never see the point, because I was always too busy with whatever had to be done. But nowadays, I have learnt to take time to enjoy places, to see the beauty in the landscape and in the small things that are in that landscape

I spent one holiday recently in Austria, in a tiny village in the mountains. The people were very friendly and I used to take gentle walks through the forest trails up the mountains, breathing in the wonderful scents, stopping to dangle my feet in mountain streams, picnicking, or practising a bit of tai chi. I met a few people along the trail, who were filled with the joy of the place

One old lady I encountered told me that now she was 85 she could only manage a 5km walk every day – that’s what we should all aim at: having a healthy lively old age! A little gentle practise every day (perhaps not a 5km walk to start with!), will ease you into a happier healthier lifestyle, with things to look forward to

I should mention that I was very happy to be able to walk up those mountain trails, because I have arthritis in both knees. My doctor told me it wouldn’t get better and I should just take painkillers. Well, I wanted more than that! The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi says that it is extremely good for arthritis (and a number of other conditions), because the movements are slow and gentle and low-impact

From my own perspective, I think there are several reasons that tai chi is so good for health:

  • it involves proper bending and stretching of the joints
  • it improves posture, so that your internal organs don’t get squashed up into odd positions
  • you learn how to breathe properly instead of shallowly, so that you no longer have a residue of stale air at the bottom of your lungs
  • you learn how to move with awareness of where your weight is, so that your joints are properly aligned
  • over time your tendons become softer, making it easier to move your joints
  • regular practise helps produce mood enhancing endorphins in your body

One last point – which is purely vanity on my part: before I started tai chi, I was a size 20 and shunned having my photo taking, because I did not feel good about myself

Through healthy eating and tai chi, I gradually lost weight and lost klutziness and could do more and more things, so that I began to feel good about myself. So good in fact, that I let my boyfriend take all sorts of pictures of me posing for my website. Feeling good about yourself is just as important as feeling healthy!

Anyway, you can read more at my website www.taichiinstructors.co.uk, or watch the short video clips on it.

Fiona Anderson has been a tai chi instructor for 5 years and can be contacted at www.taichiinstructors.co.uk







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